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S.T.C.C. receives green initiative grant

Date: 8/4/2009

By Amanda Lemon

Staff Intern

SPRINGFIELD - It's been said that you can give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, but teach him to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.

For Massachusetts' increasing population of unemployed, the river may have run dry. Years of hard work riveting metal and deftly assembling new buildings out of steel beams have abruptly ended for many seasoned construction workers. Contractors who once flourished, now join the ranks of the jobless.

What these individuals need is new bait, a new set of skills to bring to the table.

For this, Gov. Deval Patrick has recently announced Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) as the recipient of a $1.875 million, three-year grant initiative.

Funded by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, in collaboration with the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, the grant will establish the Massachusetts Green Energy Education Network Institute (MassGREEN).

The goal of the project is to create a new curriculum focused on energy efficiency and building sciences, to be delivered to the workforce through a collaboration among all 15 Massachusetts community colleges, industry employers, nonprofit agencies, and government entities.

Ira H. Rubenzal, president of STCC, stated, "I'm excited that Springfield Technical Community College has been chosen to lead MassGreen, a new center that will train individuals for the growing residential energy field." He continued, "We will develop a skilled workforce to promote energy efficiency and independence in Massachusetts."

The overall aim of the project will be to offer instruction in weatherizing existing homes and constructing new ones which are energy efficient, in an effort to reduce the carbon footprint of residential structures in the state.

According to the Clean Energy Center, MassGREEN will "establish training programs that will teach methods of saving energy in all kinds of buildings, with an emphasis on achieving deeper and deeper savings in each building treated over time, so that in short order we will be achieving 50 percent energy use reductions in treated buildings."

Issues of global warming and its impacts are becoming increasingly prevalent in today's society. Considering's report, of a 3.5 percent increase in the state unemployment rate between June 2008 and June 2009, MassGREEN would appear to be a comprehensive attempt at a solution to some of today's most pressing issues.

The two groups who stand to directly benefit from the program will be contractors and unemployed tradespeople who need to be trained in innovative green building techniques, as well as laborers who will work for said contractors. For those joining the industry at entry level, curriculum is being developed to enable the possibility of advancement in the field.

Training for unskilled potential workers will be provided through the combined efforts of several partners, including vocational-technical schools, the 15 community colleges, one-stop career centers, and programs such as YouthBuild.

"This enterprise depends on a partnership with our sister community colleges as well as labor and business groups," explained Rubenzal.

The MassGREEN project will officially begin in August. The team will hold several pilot training programs at three or more sites within the next six months.